When Paul Zammit, director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, spoke to the Bond Head-Bradford Garden Club back in April, his topic was Planting for Pollinators.
Zammit urged gardeners to rethink their gardens: Don’t go mulch-mad but leave some bare ground for ground-nesting pollinators. Accept the occasional dandelion and clover popping up in the lawn. And plant a “salad bar” of flowering plants that will bloom from early spring to late fall, providing pollen and nectar.
It was advice the garden club, which meets at the Danube Seniors Leisure Centre, had already taken to heart – last year, planting a Pollinator Haven at the centre’s property on Simcoe Road.
The Pollinator Haven was an initiative of the Ontario Horticultural Association and part of a province-wide campaign to encourage gardeners to provide food and shelter for pollinators.
Pollinators include not only honey bees but solitary bees, bumblebees, flies, beetles, moths and butterflies, even some birds, and are vital to the reproduction of “88 per cent of plants globally,” according to Zammit.
Yet pollinators are under attack, threatened by loss of habitat and the widespread use of pesticides.
Even a small backyard garden, planted with pollinator-friendly plants, can serve as an oasis – helping pollinators survive in the urban “desert," he said.
From weeds like viper’s bugloss, Queen Anne’s lace, and milkweed – so important to Monarch butterflies – to garden plants that include bachelor’s buttons, black-eyed Susan, and bee balm, the pollinator haven is filled with flowers this year and buzzing with life.
“Ours is a mixture of native and non-native plants which attract pollinators,” said garden club co-president Janet Mills. “Last year I saw many pollinators at our little space, including a hummingbird. Now that the monarda (bee balm) is blooming, it may attract them again.”
Garden club volunteers have largely left the patch to go wild, untouched except for pulling out invasive thistles and dog-strangling vine. Mills would like to see “a bit more milkweed,” for the monarchs, she said. “We should plant as many native milkweeds, Joe Pye weeds, etc. as we can – as well as dill, which attracts a lot of pollinators.”
See gardenontario.org for more information on creating your own pollinator habitat.